Make no mistake: I am not in overall charge of our family’s finances. I do a lot of the admin, like online banking, keeping track of what we spend, and checking our current account balance, but Nick is the one with the handle on our financial health and whether we need to make big changes to keep afloat.
That said, since dropping from two incomes to one and having two children, our purse strings have tightened considerably, and that is reflected in some of the lifestyle choices we make and in how I make decisions about running the home.
Here are a few things that help me keep our spending in check:
1. BATCH COOKING / MEAL PLANNING
This is a real time- and money-saver. It works quite well for me because my children are fairly limited in what they will eat, so planning meals is easy, and since I do almost all the cooking at home I prefer to make a big pot of something and eat it for a few days rather than cook every single day.
We have a bolognese almost every week as it’s the only way I get my kids to eat vegetables. I mix it up for Nick and me by making the leftovers into a cottage pie or a lasagne which we eat the day after (the kids just have bolognese again). We normally have fish at least once a week, either super quick pasta with baked salmon, or oven-baked fish (fishfingers for the children). On the other days we usually have baked chicken of some kind. Everything served with fresh boiled or steamed vegetables. Lunches are sandwiches, toast, or bagels. I like to take it easy.
I save all my fancy cooking and baking for the weekends, or the evenings if it’s something quick to make. On Saturdays we often have something nice in the evening while the kids get chicken dippers or something easy, and on Sundays we usually have a big lunch all together.
2. Going to Free Places
Parks, the library, the Zoo (we have membership), National Trust places (again, membership), the local shops, other people’s houses – these are all fun and free (ish) activities which get the kids out of the house so they can’t mess it up. Win.
3. Having Less stuff
I know, I know, I mentioned this in the previous post. But I really can’t emphasise enough how important I find this for helping not only cleanliness and organisation, but finances too. Think about it: the more stuff you have, the bigger house you need and the more storage furniture in which to put said stuff. Plus the fact that if you are drowning in stuff, you probably own a lot of things that you don’t actually like much, and these things distract you from enjoying the things you really value and love, not to mention that if you have so much stuff you end up unable to find things or forgetting what you own so you buy more, when if you just had less stuff but it was only stuff that you actually needed, you wouldn’t have had to buy the new thing in the first place because you would have known that you already had it. Longest. sentence. ever.
I’ve started reading Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ and it’s really like she has downloaded my brain and written a book of my thoughts. She’s like the Japanese version of me… I can’t wait to finish reading it and try to put its wisdom into action. I’ll need to get my husband to read it first though!
I’ve written a few posts on how we are trying to cut down our Christmas spending this year. We’re not buying loads and loads for the children, and we’re keeping it simple with family too – only one present each and mostly vouchers so they can get something they really want instead of another random thing they have to find somewhere to store (see point 3 above!). I’ve also decided not to send Christmas cards to anyone except close family and maybe a few neighbours this year. Buying the cards and the stamps is expensive. I’ll post a Christmas message on social media for my friends to see, and make a donation to charity instead.
5. Eating at Home
We eat out very rarely now. Before children, we would eat out at least once a week. Now, it’s more like once every two months. To be honest, I don’t miss it. I’ve practised and practised my cooking all these years and I can genuinely say that most of the food I’ve eaten in restaurants in the last year I could have easily cooked myself at home and for a fraction of the cost. The only thing about eating at home is that you also have to do the washing up!
I’m all out of ideas for now. There are big things as well, like taking fewer holidays, not buying whatever we fancy for ourselves or the house, and carefully planning when we do have to make big purchases. I honestly feel that the family life we’ve chosen is totally worth the lifestyle sacrifices that we’ve made – most of them don’t even feel like sacrifices at all. It’s funny how when you strip everything back, you get to realise how good the basics – a walk in the woods, colouring in with a toddler, a big pot of home-made food – really are.